President Sarkozy is back at work:
Mr Sarkozy, 54, left the Val-de-Grace military hospital in Paris on Monday after being kept in overnight under cardiological observation, a day after he suffered a dizzy spell and fell to the ground while out running at his weekend retreat in Versailles. He emerged smiling and holding hands with his wife, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, who has been responsible for a major makeover of her husband in recent months.
As they left the hospital, Mr Sarkozy, who appeared tired, declared "I feel fine". Shaking hands with staff, his wife said: "Thank you so much, you've been wonderful."
While heat and overwork were blamed for the incident on Sunday questions remained over his true condition. The Elysée palace said he would take a few days of "relative" rest and denied that his faintness was in any way linked to heart problems.
He had suffered a "vasovagal episode" - a drop in heart rate and blood pressure - following "sustained effort during hot weather, without loss of consciousness, in the context of fatigue linked to a heavy workload", aides said.
However, Frédéric Lefebvre, spokesman of Mr Sarkozy's UMP party, cast doubt on that version by saying that he had suffered a "cardiac incident".
Friends suggested that he had fallen foul of a draconian diet which involved eating little and ruled out chocolate, cheese and puddings in an attempt to make Mr Sarkozy as svelte and fit as his supermodel-turned-singer wife, who is 13 years his junior.
Patrick Balkany, an MP and close friend, said: "The president is going to have to take more care, work a little less hard and eat a little bit more.
He's on a diet because he's always a little bit too heavy ... let's say he doesn't want to be overweight.
"At 54 you have to be reasonable."
Mr Balkany added: "Recently the president has looked very honed. He looks more like a Tour de France rider than a president."
The first lady, who he married last year after a whirlwind romance, is attributed with overseeing a complete "metamorphosis" of her husband as part of his bid to run for a second term in 2012. She helped him drop the glitzy "bling-bling" image that saw him plummet in the polls and raised his cultural credentials, weaning him off Rambo films in favour of high-brow theatre and literature. She is even said to have had a hand in choosing his new, flamboyant culture minister, Frédéric Mitterrand, the son of the late president François Mitterrand.
She also introduced him to her personal trainer who has helped the president lose around 9lb and two trouser sizes. Julie Imperiali, 26, who specialises in strengthening the pelvic floor, said earlier this year that she had helped the president get more in touch with his limits as before "he used just to run and run and run without being aware of his body".
But there were suggestions from some quarters that his new diet and fitness makeover had proved too much on top of his hectic schedule.
"Nicolas Sarkozy can no longer allow himself to push his limits, and to expose himself to a new accident. Then the risk would become political," warned Patrice Chabanet of the Journal de la Haute-Marne.
"Should he slow down the rhythm of his five-year mandate, marked by two years of omnipresence?" asked Le Monde, which said his diet could have been a factor.
But aides were quick to insist that "Speedy Sarko" would not slacken the pace.
"It's not in his nature to hold himself back," said Patrick Devedjian, the minister charged with reviving the French economy and a close friend.
Although Mr Sarkozy's office said he required no further medical tests, commentators questioned the wisdom of "l'hyperpresident" keeping up the gruelling schedule of the past 24 months that have seen him travel 14 times round the world and visit 65 countries.
Doctors have advised him to rest, so he has postponed a planned visit today (TUES) to the Mont Saint Michel abbey in Normandy, but will chair Wednesday's cabinet meeting as planned.
The French leader's three-week long summer holiday is to begin on Thursday at his wife's vast Riviera retreat at Cap Nègre. However, friends said he "punishes" his body even harder while away from work, going on daily runs in the hills of Provence "in which the policemen accompanying have a job keeping up" and going on daily 90 minute bike rides, not to mention swims in the sea and pool.
"The only one who has a chance of slowing him down is his wife, but even then it's not sure," said Catherine Nay, his biographer. "He'll just have to accept that no-one is superman".
How Carla has changed 'Super Sarko':
- He used to have a chocolate addiction, sported love handles, and jogged flat-footed. His wife introduced him to a 26-year old personal trainer who changed his exercise habits and diet.
- He used to be partial to frumpy, light-coloured suits. Mrs Bruni-Sarkozy has put him in dark suits, English shirts from Hilditch & Key and dark ties.
- He used to wear chunky, bling Rolexes. His wife bought him a thin gold Patek Philippe instead.
- He used to describe himself as a "total fan" of Sylvester Stallone and "Les Bronzés," a modern-day French Carry On comedy set at Club Med. Now he is mugging up on Fellini films and claims to like All About Eve, A Streetcar Named Desire and A Clockwork Orange.
- He used to have little interest in classic French literature and outraged academics by slating La Princesse de Clèves, a 17th-century saga of thwarted love. He now says his favourite book is Stendhal's classic, le Rouge et le Noir. Recently he has quoted Céline and Jean-Paul Sartre, the existentialist philosopher and dined with Michel Houellebecq, the controversial but acclaimed French novelist.
- He liked ageing French crooners like Michel Sardou and Johnny Hallyday. Now he has branched out, recently going to a Leonard Cohen concert and meeting Bob Dylan and Marianne Faithfull.
- He used to like wealthy crude comedians like Jean-Marie Bigard. On his Facebook page, he says he found My Old Lady, a play by Israel Horovitz, "wonderful".